February 24, 2024


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Michigan State basketball earned a complete win versus No. 12 Illinois 88-80

Michigan State basketball earned a complete win versus No. 12 Illinois 88-80

EAST LANSING — Malik Hall felt himself slipping away again.

The Michigan State basketball forward missed a forehand free throw on Saturday with 3:18 to play against Illinois, a reminder of his struggles at the foul line four days ago in Minneapolis.

Seconds later, Hall collided with AJ Hoggard on his way for a defensive rebound and the Illini recovered. Then, after star player Terrence Shannon Jr. drove his car around the auditorium and was fouled, the Spartans' fifth-year senior tipped his head back and let out a few choice words of self-inflicted frustration.

Whatever words Hall said to himself, he cursed Illinois.

Hall scored by connecting on a pair of three-point plays to give MSU the lead for good, and Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard made sure the Spartans closed out a much-needed blowout win, knocking off the 12th-ranked Illini With a score of 88-80. At the Breslin Center.

MSU (15-9, 7-6 Big Ten) has won 11 of 15, rallying from blowing a nine-point second-half lead Tuesday in a bitter 59-56 loss at Minnesota.

Hoggard led MSU with 23 points and went 12-for-13 at the free throw line, including five in the final 1:39. The first two came after a breakaway layup and steal by Walker that helped start a late Spartans run.

“That's what coach was talking about, is winning plays, and we're going to get some big stops,” said Walker, who had 19 points — his 35th consecutive game in double figures — and added two of MSU's six steals. “So it was big for us to take the lead today. … We're not trying to drop two in a row. We definitely thought we dropped one in Minnesota, so we're just trying to be better.”

It was a decisive victory for MSU's effort to extend coach Tom Izzo's record 26 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

“In my opinion, we're going to the NCAA Tournament every year. I'm not going to be with someone who doesn't leave, I don't want to be that person,” Hall said. “That was definitely an important win. I think we need another big one on our resume just to give us more traction, I think.

Jaden Akins added a team-high 10 points and six rebounds as MSU tied 33 points on the board with the Illini, one of the top rebounding teams in the country. The game also featured 15 ties and 16 lead changes, as the Spartans outscored Illinois 23-9 at the break and 38-22 in the paint.

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It looked like a game in March. “If so, I love it,” Izzo said. “We won the game. And that's when you want to win, in the month of March. I thought they all went up. And I thought in the huddles, you can tell. I don't know why people can't stay focused on these things, but sometimes they don't.” we do that.

Illinois (17-6, 8-4) finished 11-for-30 from 3-point range (36.7%) but missed the final five over the final 6:47. Shannon led all scorers with 28 points on 7-for-19 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Coleman Hawkins scored 14 points and Marcus Domasek scored 12 points for Illinois.

For the game, MSU went 25-for-34 at the free throw line, and Hall was 7-for-9 in the second half. Illinois finished 17 for 20. In the Illini's 71-68 win over the Spartans on Jan. 11, the Illini went 18-for-22 on free throws, but limited Izzo's team to just 5-of-7 at the line by fouling just 10-for-24. A whistle was blown at them. For Sunday.

“It kind of turned the game around in Champaign, when we got to the line and were more aggressive. … Give them all the credit, obviously they were the aggressors,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “You're a negative and soft team when you make mistakes. Obviously we made a lot of mistakes today, so we were very negative.”

MSU returns to the road Wednesday at Penn State (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).

Running game

Big runs, big plays, key rebounds and key calls. All of this was intertwined in the first half, in which neither team was able to shake the other.

The Spartans struggled with three-point defense early, as the Illini scored four of their first six points in open looks. Hawkins' 3 after midway through the half extended the lead to seven, but MSU's defense tightened up from there and didn't allow another 3-pointer for the rest of the half.

Hoggard's steal and layup after a free throw by Walker, followed by a driving layup by Akins, forced Underwood to call a timeout with 7:52 before the half and the Spartans within two minutes.

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Shannon, who had 16 points in the first 20 minutes, answered after the timeout with three straight buckets to give Illinois its largest lead of the first half at 31-23 with 6:29 remaining.

That's when MSU's offense began, with a pair of Hoggard free throws leading to a 21-10 counterpunch over the final 6:15. The Spartans scored 10 straight goals, the first coming after a foul by Jackson Koehler after Hoggard missed a 3-pointer. The senior point guard started to distribute after that, setting up Hall for a 3-pointer on MSU's next possession. Hall cleaned up Walker's missed layup attempt, then Hoggard threaded a pass to Akins for a 3.

That bucket put the Spartans up 44-39 and drove Breslin crazy. But Akins was caught tweeting at the Illinois bench and committed a technical foul, angering Izzo and sending him down the court to attack Akins before Hoggard fouled him. Shannon hit the ensuing free throws, but MSU took a 44-41 lead into the locker room.

The Spartans outscored the Illini by two points and turned their three offensive rebounds into six points, limiting Illinois to two second-chance points on four offensive rebounds. Kohler had three rebounds in the half, turning two on the offensive glass into buckets.

Hall made all four of his shots in the first half and scored 11 points on the half-point, as the Spartans shot 57.7% overall and went 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Hoggard added 10 points by making all six of his free throws and dishing out three assists.

“We fought. We maintained our mental ability. We stayed positive,” said Hoggard, who had five assists. “All we knew was that basketball was a run game, and we knew how talented this team was and that they were going to run. So we just had to stay balanced and come back and fight and run.”

Signature victory

It was more of the same after the half.

Domasek's 3-pointer from the end of the first half was the first of seven ties and four lead changes during the first 8:53 of the first half.

The fifth lead change came on another 3-pointer for Illinois, this one by Luke Goode with 10:40 to play. That led to a 12-2 run, as Domasek knocked down the Illini's final 3 to make it 72-64 with 7:37 left to play.

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MSU responded again.

Walker hit a pair of free throws, and Hoggard put together a stunning sequence.

First, he took his time before launching a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the opposite corner to feed Walker in transition. Then after an Illini turnover, Hoggard got the ball again on the right side of the floor and attacked off the dribble. His hesitation shot sent Hawkins flying through the air, and Hoggard finished through contact and hit the free throw. That left MSU deadlocked 72-72 with 4:10 remaining, the eighth tie of the second half.

The Spartans took the lead on a big sequence from Hall, with two free throws from Hawkins giving Illinois a brief lead again with 2:29 to play. But Hall's second three-point play provided the final lead change.

“We let him catch it — 90% of the game, we didn't let him catch it,” Underwood said of Hall's key buckets. “We sat behind him. I mean they had five guys (center), but they didn't have five guys who could shoot. Coleman was sitting right behind him, there to cover, and we let him catch it. Then we made fouls on top of that, which wasn't smart.” very”.

Those plays, and the ensuing steals from Walker and Hoggard, provided the signature victory Izzo was seeking. It joins No. 13 Baylor's blowout on Dec. 6 as the Spartans' only victories over ranked opponents this season.

“Honestly, it was like we played them two years ago here and didn't get the job done,” Walker said, referring to a 79-74 home loss to Illinois on Feb. 19, 2022. “This is one big play after another, back and forth. But we finally put some plays and some stops together to close out the game.”

Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. follow him @chrysolari.

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